Home StyleHair Care Tips Hair Terminology: How to Talk to Your Barber

Hair Terminology: How to Talk to Your Barber

by nick

Have you ever left the barbers feeling disappointed with your new haircut? Did you have a completely different style in mind? You’re not alone!

A lot of men don’t know how to describe the haircut they want, leaving the barber to interpret the poor explanation that they’ve given to him. So, to ensure that you don’t leave the barbershop feeling disappointed again, I’ve completed a guide on what to say to your barber when trying to describe the haircut you want next time you sit in the chair.

Explain the general style you want

So you’ve sat down in the chair, and the barber has asked what you’d like.  If you have a specific cut in mind, try and give him a general description of the style you want. Here are a few of the more generic cuts that every good barber should understand.

Buzz cut. A haircut that is done entirely with clippers. Short all over, it’s sometimes referred to as a burr cut, skinhead or a number one.


Crew cut. A classic short haircut that is also known as a short pomp or brush cut. The hair is cut short on the sides and back, with the hair on top of the head being slightly longer.


Caesar cut. A semi-short haircut named after Julius Caesar. The hair on the top of the head is layered around a length of 1 to 3 inches, with the front combed forward into short bangs.


Taper cut. A simple haircut where the hair length gradually changes from the top of the head down to the nape of the neck. Usually the taper starts off long at the top and gets shorter as you go down the neck; however the length of taper can vary. Most men’s haircuts involve some form of taper.


If you’re unsure how to describe the haircut you want or its name, you might want to bring in a photo of the look that you’d like to achieve.

Explain how much you want taken off and where

After you’ve explained the general style you want, you need to tell the barber how much you want taken off and where. Describing the length of hair that you’d like to remain on your head is extremely important. What one barber considers short is another barbers’ number one with the clippers.  So that you don’t end up with your hair being cut too short, you need to be specific with how much you want taken off.  So say something like, “take half an inch off the top” or “take a quarter inch off the side.”  If you’re not sure how much hair you want cut, tell your barber. Tell him to gradually cut your hair until you’re happy with its length. Remember that you can always go shorter but you can’t go longer once it’s been cut.

Explain how you want your hair textured

Most modern men’s hairstyles require some form of texturing.  If you’d like some texture added to your hair, use these terms with your barber.

Thinned out.  When thinning the hair out, the barber will reduce the thickness or volume of the hair without necessarily making it any shorter.  Thinning shears are often used which have teeth that cut some hair strands and leave others uncut.  If you have thick, bushy hair, it’s recommended that you get your hair thinned out every time you visit the barbers.

Choppy. When you want to add a bit of volume to your hair, ask for a choppy look. It gives plenty of texture whilst still remaining trim and neat.  To create this, the barber will pick up the hair at different lengths and cut it at a 45 degree angle, known as point cutting.

Razored. The barber will use a straight razor to trim the ends instead of scissors. It leaves the follicles sharp and angular and it helps the hair lay flatter on your head, reducing bulk.

Layered.  The barber will cut your hair at different lengths throughout the hairstyle. Layered cuts can give a more modern, messy look leaving it with more depth and dimensionality.

Explain what type of neckline you want

Your neckline is probably the last thing you think about when getting your haircut, but if you don’t keep it trim, a great haircut can easily look untidy. There are two different types of neckline that you can ask for.


Blocked. A blocked nape means cutting the hair straight across in a definite line where the hairline meets the back of the neck. If you have a skinny or long neck then a blocked nape can add the illusion of a wider, thicker neck. The disadvantage of a blocked nape is that it will appear unkempt very quickly as the hair grows out. If you go for a blocked neckline, it is recommended that you learn how to tidy it up yourself.

Tapered. A tapered nape means a gradual decrease in hair as it gets closer to your natural neckline.  A tapered nape will look good if you have a short, thick neck. Plus, a tapered nape looks neater and more natural as your hair grows out, meaning you won’t need frequent touch ups compared to a blocked nape.

Explain what type of arch you want

The area between your hairline and ears are called arches. Here’s how they can be trimmed.


High arch. You can ask your barber to cut the arch around your ear higher into your hairline. Men with smaller ears may consider a higher arch as it can make the ears appear larger. However, if an arch is trimmed too high or sharply without proper tapering, it’ll look messy when it grows out.

Natural arch. Everyone has a natural arch and this is the safer and better looking option to go for. Tell your barber to keep your natural arches and he’ll just tidy up and trim the natural arch.

Listen to your barbers suggestions

After you’ve explained to the barber what you want, listen to his suggestions.  You may know how you want your hair, but there are other factors that need to be considered such as your hair type and face shape.  Have an open mind and be flexible. If your barber thinks another hairstyle will suit you better, listen to what he has to say and trust his expertise.

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